Sunday, December 4, 2011

St. Nicholas at the Cathedral of the Nativity of Mother of God (Toronto)

December is the month of many holy days: Christmas, St. Stephen, St. Mary, and of course, the most popular one for children: St. Nicholas. He is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. Historical Saint Nicholas is remembered and revered among Catholic and Orthodox Christians. He was the only son of wealthy Christian parents. He was very religious from an early age and according to legend, Nicholas was said to have rigorously observed the canonical fasts of Wednesdays and Fridays. His wealthy parents died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young and he was raised by his uncle—also named Nicholas—who was the bishop of Patara.

In Slovakia, Mikuláš, is often also accompanied by an angel who acts as a counterweight to the ominous devil . Additionally, children find candy and small gifts in their shoes the evening of December 5th or the morning of December 6th.

The children of our parish must have been pretty good all year round because on Sunday, December 4th, following the 9am liturgy, St. Nicholas arrived at our church. Children were gathered in the hall prior to that working on crafts, colouring and cutting out images. As soon as they heard the bells, they started singing some Christmas carols and their eyes sparkled when they saw the man, dressed in his Bishop vestments coming down the hall towards them. As soon as he settled in his chair, children began to gather around him and St. Nicholas, with the help of the parish president, Mike Kapitan, began distributing presents. Every child was called to sit on his knee, had a few words with St. Nicholas and received a bag of candies, fruits and nuts as well as a gift selected specifically for them. All the children were delighted with their gifts and the ladies had a hard time getting them to stop playing long enough to have a lunch: hotdogs and french fries as well as donuts and hot chocolate.

All the children had a great time, and all the adults enjoyed the pitter-patter of little feet and all the excitement that the children showed. Good time was had by all.

Thank you to Fr. Andrew for encouragement, the parish for supplying the gifts, the generosity of Mr. & Mrs. Michalik for their donation to St. Nicholas party and to the ladies for preparing the luncheon for the children. We can’t wait for next year to see if St. Nicholas will find his way back to our church and to see if our children will behave throughout the year.

Mary Siroky - Snell

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A special day in Windsor at St. Michael's Byzantine church

Most of you know that in our churches we have annual pilgrimages – odpusts. We have one in August (Hamilton), one in September (Toronto), one in October (Oshawa) and our last one in November (Windsor). We try to attend all of them however the last one always gives us worries and we hold off responding until the latest time possible: what is the weather going to be like that first November Sunday? Will the snow hold off until after that? Will there be fog in London area? Maybe it was because this particular odpust in Windsor was a very special day indeed that the sun was up early in the morning and the drive to Windsor was absolutely beautiful.
The odpust itself is a special day for every parish and for Windsor this one was exceptionally special: it was on this day that Winsen Zouzal, son of the late Very Rev. Anthony Zouzal and Mrs. Mary Zouzal took the first step in becoming a Deacon. This day he received the Minor Orders – the Tonsuring (lector, cantor and candlebearer) and the Subdeaconate.
Parishioners started arriving early and everyone was looking forward to the liturgy. Just before 3pm, the procession entered the church. Right behind the crossbearer, Winsen himself led the procession followed by Rt. Rev. Eugene Halitsky, Fr. Peter Hrycyk, Fr. Ron Comeau, Fr. Albert Sandor, OFMCap & Fr. Phillip Naessens, OFMCap - friends of Winsen Zouzal and family. At the end of the procession, H.E. Bishop John Pazak, C.Ss.R. walked in, bestowing blessings upon parishioners and guests. Fr. Jozef Mucha later joined the clergy at the altar.
First part of the celebration was the actual ordination into the lectorate and subdeaconate: the candidate receives a candle, professes his faith, pledges his obedience to the Bishop and to the church, receives his Epistle book, and finally receives the proper vestments - stikhar with orarion. If you have ever seen a priestly ordination, this is a scaled down version of it. It was a beautiful ceremony witnessed by Winsen’s mom Mrs. Mary Zouzal, Winsen’s wife Susan and their children along with Winsen’s brothers Tony and Karl and their families as well as parishioners and guests. Winsen’s mom was very emotional during the entire ordination and you could tell that she was also a very proud mother of a future deacon. This was also emotional for most of the parishioners and guests who have known the family and who also knew that Winsen’s late father, Very Rev. Anthony Zouzal, served in this church all his priestly life. Winsen grew up in this very church where on this day, he entered into the Deaconate! Indeed a very proud moment for us all. With a lot of hard work on Winsen’s part, and prayers from us all, we may have a continuation of this celebration next year.
Liturgy followed the ordination with a homily from Bishop John. It concluded with mirovanije – blessing with holy oil by Bishop John and all were invited to the banquet in the hall below.
After the introduction of the head table, there were congratulatory letters from Fr. Sipek, former pastor of St. Michael’s and also from Fr. Jaroslav Lajciak and Daniel Cerny, SEOLic, in Rome. Fr. Jaroslav served the parish this past summer and Daniel visited the parishioners in Windsor to gather information for his thesis. Both have come to know Winsen and his family while in Canada. Bishop John blessed the food and everyone enjoyed a wonderful dinner. There were many prizes for winning and it was just after the dinner that Winsen’s mom congratulated her son on this occasion and presented him with a cake. She spoke like a proud mom that she is, from her heart. She thanked all for coming to celebrate this special day with her son and the family and asked that everyone have a piece of the cake.
Winsen also spoke a bit: emotional as he was, he thanked the Holy Spirit for gently guiding him to this day and to his new “position” in church, he also thanked Bishop John for helping him and he promised to serve faithfully and to the best of his ability. He also urged the people to bring their families back to the church, to renew their faith and to be a part of the parish. He said that he “felt” his father was with him since the chalice that was used for communion was his father’s chalice. He knew his father was proud of him and was very much a part of this celebration. He thanked his wife and his family for supporting him and he thanked all for coming to the odpust.
This day could not have been any better: the drive home was excellent and we can only hope that next year’s weather will be just as nice as this year and, God willing, we will be back.

Mary Siroky - Snell

Sunday, August 21, 2011

August 21, 2011

90 years ago, on this day, a baby was born in Beaverdale, PA, USA. Who knew that this little baby would accomplish so much in his lifetime. We are talking about our own Bishop Michael Rusnak.
Throughout his lifetime, he had a taste of life in USA, Canada and Slovakia. Following his education, he joined the Redemptorists. He was persecuted as were many other religious in Slovakia and thanks to his USA birth certificate, he was able to escape and return back to USA and eventually come to Canada. With the help of Fr. Mina he established a number of Slovak parishes and eventually was ordained a Bishop. He was Auxiliary Bishop to H.E. Bishop Isidore Borecky and in 1981 became a Bishop of his own Eparchy: the Eparchy of SS. Cyril & Methodius for the Slovaks of Byzantine Rite in Canada. He was instrumental in building the Cathedral of Transfiguration and after retiring, he spent his life at a nursing home. We often visited him on special occasions and celebrated his milestone birthdays.
And so on this day, August 21,2011- a small group of us gathered at his gravesite and prayed the panachyda. There were: Mrs. Seminsky, Mrs. Bucic, Mr. & Mrs. Revtak, Mrs. & Miss Dribnak, Mrs. Siroky, Mary Snell and leading us was Fr. Peter Pidskalny, C.Ss.R., from Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Fr. Peter knew Bishop Michael and visits his grave every time he is in the area. He was ordained to the sub-diaconate by Bishop Michael and thus has a special connection to him. He spent many of his summer vacations at Nativity of the Mother of God church on Shaw St. Following panachyda, we stayed at his graveside and reminisced about the old times - happy and sad. We thus honoured a man who was a focal point in our lives and in our church.
Vicnaja pamjat, Vladyko.

Mary Siroky - Snell

More photos can be seen on:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Odpust in Hamilton

On Sunday, August 14, 2011, beautiful voices could be heard emanating from the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Slovak Byzantine Catholic Church in Hamilton. Led by Fr. Jaroslav Lajčiak, a visiting Slovak priest from Rome, parishioners stood in front of the icon of Our Lady of Klokočov and sang an Akatist to the Mother of God, “Tebe, Bohorodička, mocná vládkyňa, spievame víťaznú pieseň. - Vyslobodila si nás od zlého, preto ti vrúcne ďakujeme, - hoci sme len nehodní služobníci. Ty si nepremožiteľná, - zbav nás všetkých bied, aby sme ti mohli spievať: Raduj sa, panenská Nevesta! The atmosphere was one of peace and prayerfulness, enabling everyone present to focus on why they had come to Hamilton that day, namely to celebrate the feast day of the Dormition of the Mother of God (the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary). The church was beautifully decorated with flowers and the smell of incense filled every pew. After the Akatist, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom began with the entry of the altar servers, the Bishop and many of the priests of the Slovak Eparchy of St. Cyril and Methodius along with visiting priests. Cantor Jozef Ridos led the singing during the first half of the Liturgy with Cantor Mary Seminsky leading the second half. Both were assisted by cantors from Hamilton and Toronto. During the Liturgy, Jozef Ridos chanted the Epistle reading in Slovak. He was followed by eight year old Victoria Rusnak, a new Reader, who read the Epistle in English. The homilies by Bishop Pazak (English) and Fr. Lajčiak (Slovak) focussed on what is truly important for us as followers of Christ, and sought to awaken within our slumbering hearts, our true calling as Christians.
In the church hall at the banquet that followed, parishioners and guests enjoyed a wonderful meal prepared by a small group of dedicated volunteers. Our master of ceremonies introduced the head table and led the prayers along with Jozef Ridos, Fr. Mucha and Bishop Pazak. The annual volunteer award was given out to four members of our parish, who went above and beyond in volunteering much energy and time this past year in helping our church to thrive. A new award, the Msgr. Frantisek Fuga Stewardship Award was introduced, recognizing the outstanding stewardship of founding members of our parish along with current members who embody all aspects of “Stewardship” in our church community. And like the annual volunteer award, new recipients will be announced each year. The day ended with a game exploring our knowledge of our rich Catholic faith and our heritage as Slovak Byzantine Catholics. Congratulations to all who are striving to know their faith, who are keeping our rich heritage alive and who are passing that faith to the generations coming after us.
Thank you to Fr. Mucha and the dedicated volunteers who made this Feast Day such a success. And a special thank you to everyone who attended and participated on this beautiful day. We invite everyone to come and celebrate our St. Nicholas/Christmas Bazaar on Sunday, December 11th. And we would like to invite all parishioners, past and present along with their friends and families to come and join us as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of our parish in the Fall of 2012.
Please check out our website for more information about our liturgy schedule and coming events:


Friday, April 22, 2011

Pascha in Hamilton

One of my friends asked me what I did during Easter this year. I told him that I spent it in church. Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday, found me living through the Last Supper, the agonizing death and finally the amazing resurrection of Christ. Spending this time in my church, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hamilton, immersed in the words sung these last four days, picturing Christ’s journey, his trial, torture, burial, the empty tomb, and joyous resurrection, removed me from the present day and brought me to Jesus’ time, all the while, pointing out to me, that this time that I know as present day, is fully affected by Jesus’ action. His death wasn’t something in history, something before my time for me to simply read about. At the core of my faith is Christ’s death and resurrection. And I need to ask myself, remind myself perhaps, what that means for me as a Christian and specifically as a Catholic living in the 21st century.
Each Sunday I attend the Divine Liturgy with fellow parishioners in a church built by generations before me, a church built through their faith, hard work, sacrifice, the gift of self. Much as Christ gave himself so that we would be saved, former generations gave of themselves, after work, on weekends, during holidays, to build this beautiful church of today that I and my fellow parishioners enjoy. Their faith unified their vision, brought together their talents, filled their hearts with hope, inspired their minds, and enabled them to create a church, a community united to God in the act of giving and receiving, taking and sharing. This past Easter, as I sang the Resurrection Matins, I thought of Christ’s sacrifice and the sacrifice of the generations who came before me, who sat in the very pew I sat in, who left a beautiful legacy for their children and future generations to come. Christ, in dying on the cross and rising from the dead on the third day, left more for us than a legacy. He left behind a way of life, of being, of footsteps to follow. By death He conquered death so that we could have eternal life, so that our sins would be washed away. In Christ, God gave us something so precious that words cannot really capture this incredible gift. He became the door through which we can be saved
On Easter Sunday, I sang, smelled the incense, watched candles being lighted, joined in the profession of faith, was a partaker in communion, saw Easter baskets being blessed, admired the lilies, and participated in the mirovanie at the end of the Liturgy. I realized that this is my tradition, my Byzantine Catholic faith tradition. My parents and their parents had come to know God through this faith tradition. I had been inspired by the strong faith of those of my parent’s and grandparent’s generation. They were builders, very much in the image of Christ. In sacrificing all so that their children would have a better life than they had, they followed in the footsteps of Christ who sacrificed His life for all His children.
Yet the question remains. What have we done with this sacrifice for us, this gift handed to us? I look around me and see my grandparents and parents generation, still faithful, still striving to help, share and give, but I do not see their children, I do not see my own generation that came after their children’s and I do not see the generations coming after me. The single most important event around which our faith rests, the resurrection of Christ, does not seem to touch the hearts or minds of the present day generations. The gift offered is no longer understood or valued. The attitude of what’s in it for me, or what do I get out of it or I’m just coming to make my parents happy seems to permeate present day hearts and minds. Doesn’t “it” mean anything? And by “it” I am referring not just to the building, or the practice, the tradition, but to the faith. Does this faith of our parents belong simply to our parents? What is our faith? Is it our jobs, our houses, cottages, kids, families, vacations, hobbies, sports, movies, parties, politics, cell phones, having a good time, working out in the gym, the newest fad diet, the newest fad in clothes, the latest cause? Do we care to find out? Or is “to have”, and “to be” more important in our lives than to know God, to have Him at the centre of our lives from whom all of what we are, who we are, is found in Him who is all. When we stand still and turn off our phones, computers, and TVs, stop running from place to place, stop trying to keep up with the pace we have set for ourselves, simply stop, quiet our minds and enter this church, we are faced with a Truth, whether we want to accept it or not (yet why not accept it?). This Truth is God’s love, His love revealed through the death and resurrection of His son Jesus who offers us hope, a joyous hope when we ourselves face death at the end of our lives. Is it our fear that keeps us running? Has God not shown us that there is nothing to fear through Christ’s resurrection? Did not the late great John Paul II say to the multitudes: “Do not be afraid”? Easter, the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, assures us that there is nothing to fear. In following Christ’s footsteps, believing in God’s love, we too can find the everlasting joy we run after each day of our lives.